Six reasons why you should read Crooked Heart
Our next Book Club title is Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans. A hilarious, madcap novel set in Blitz-era England, full of criminal enterprise and more than a touch of Dickens.
Crooked Heart is devilishly witty
Eccentric and devilishly witty, Crooked Heart is an irreverent and dazzling piece of comic writing. As you follow the exploits of the explosive characters, the book will have you contemplating the finer points of morality, while in fits of laughter. All of which is not a surprise when you learn that the author was a former producer of Father Ted, a director of Have I Got News For You and she has even done a bit of stand-up along the way.
It’s a Bailey’s Blitz
Noel Bostock is a ten year old orphan sent, for safety, to live with 36 year old Vera Sedge, in St Albans. This Wartime tale, which was Long listed for the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, is perfect for fans of Blitz fiction, such as The Night Watch or the novels of Pat Barker, but it is also perfect for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of life during WW2. This is WW2 Britain without the gloss but with plenty of character; this is the light-hearted but unvarnished version, full of schemer s and tricksters (more on this in my next point), people taking advantage but also, on a more positive note, disparate people, who never would have otherwise met, striking up life-long friendships.
Meet Goodfellas and Good Old Dames
We love tales about criminals. Scheming, plotting, dastardly plans, tricks, crooks and cunning ruses– we can’t get enough. The criminals in Crooked Heart are all the more enticing and endearing because they are, for the most part, just ordinary, everyday people. War was a frugal, pinched time, so in the end, people like us were just trying to live well. Noel and Vee are no different – and as with so many criminal pairings the little one is the one with the brains.
Life is hard when you are young
Ah, the precocious little protagonists, good-hearted but beset by people who misunderstand them, wittier than their counterparts, brimming with potential they may, or may not, squander - oh how we enjoy reading about them: from Scout in To Kill a Mocking Bird, to Mick in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, to Adrian Mole, to Jane Eyre. Noel is perhaps most like Addie Pray from the novel Paper Moon – young, odd, adrift and about as wise as a child could possibly be, all of which creates his (and Addie’s) final attribute: he is irresistible too.
An Odd Couple
Vee is a 36 year old widow and livewire: feisty, ambitious, full of hair-brained ideas that she never sees through. She is surrounded by lazy relatives who take her for granted. Along comes young, precious, brainbox evacuee Noel, and we have the beginning of a brilliant friendship. At first, Vee sees Noel as something useful to exploit but gradually, as the hilarious novel progresses, we see their relationship deepen into something more meaningful. In the words of JoJo Moyes “Vee and Noel are utter originals, and their journey made me laugh and cry.”
There is a wonderful old-fashioned-ness to Crooked Heart that is reminiscent of Dickens. In fact, the resemblance is undisputable; there is the cast of ne’er-do-wells, the perpetual scamming (which is often both fascinating and amusing), more than a few ‘champions of the underdog’, along with fine story-telling and a good few plot twists, not to mention characters getting exactly what they deserve too. Much like when you read a good Dickens, when you read Crooked Heart you relax into a colourful, imaginative, well-paced period drama.
When Noel Bostock - aged ten, no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he winds up in St Albans with Vera Sedge - thirty-six, drowning in debts. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it. The war's thrown up all manner of new opportunities but what Vee needs is a cool head and the ability to make a plan.
Tells the story of orphaned Jane Eyre, who grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, enduring loneliness and cruelty. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane's natural independence and spirit - which prove necessary when she finds employment as a governess to the young ward of Byronic, brooding Mr Rochester.
A group of people have little in common except that they are all hopelessly lonely. A young girl, a drunken socialist and a black doctor are drawn to a gentle, sympathetic deaf mute, whose presence changes their lives.
Friday January 2nd. I felt rotten today. It's my mother's fault for singing 'My Way' at two o'clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children's home.